Guest Post: Is It a Better Bargain to Buy in Bulk?

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Guest Post by Beth from In Good Cents

Each month many of us head to a nearby wholesale or warehouse, like Costco or Sam’s Club, where we can stock up on everything from chicken breasts to toilet paper. Warehouses claim by cutting out the middleman and offering you the products in bulk, you are getting an amazing discount, so sales and coupons are needed or even accepted. Because we can get so much so easily, we often don’t ask ourselves if we’re truly getting the best deal available.

As a frugal blogger, I get asked a lot if I recommend buying in bulk to save money. Personally, I knew what I did and preferred, but when it came to my professional word, I wanted to do some research to give my readers the truth, instead of an opinion. So to do so, I headed to my nearby warehouse to compare and see if buying in bulk truly was a bargain.

Here were just a few of the results from my investigation:

I found I could buy a 6-pack of Puffs Plus Lotion family size boxes of facial tissue for $9.88. With 132 tissues per box, that equaled to be about $0.0125 per tissue. At Meijer that same week, smaller 60-count boxes of Puffs Plus Lotion were on sale for 10/$10. Using a $0.25 coupon per box, which doubled to $0.50, they were suddenly $0.0083 per tissue.

By buying at Meijer instead of in bulk, I could save 33% on each tissue. Though this may seem like pennies, tissue is always something we need in our family and those pennies add up over the years. However, facial tissue wasn’t the only item I found was actually cheaper at the grocery store using sales and stacking them with coupons. Here are some other random price comparisons below:

Pampers Cruisers

 
Warehouse Size 4 Value Pack (140 ct)
=$37.62 (or $0.27/ diaper)
vs.
Target Size 4 Big Pack (100 ct)
Use $1.50/1 coupon
=$18.49 (or $0.18/ diaper)
Save 33% at Target

Tide
Warehouse wth Bleach Laundry Powder 95 Loads
= $20.32 (or $0.21/ Load)
vs.
Meijer with Bleach Laundry Powder 63 Loads
Use $0.35/1 coupon (doubles to $0.70)
=$10.28 (or $0.16/ Load)
Save 24% at Meijer

Milk-Bone
Warehouse Dog Snacks Large 14-lb.
=$8.87 (or $0.63/lb)
vs.
Kroger Dog Snacks Large 10-lb.
Use B1G1 coupon
=$3.50 (or $0.35/lb)
Save 44% at Kroger

While comparing warehouse prices to the price I could get at the grocery store by stacking a coupon with a sale, I found that every single random item I price-checked was less expensive at the grocery store.  But that wasn’t the most shocking news. To my surprise, I found that most items were less expensive during grocery store sales before coupons were even figured into the mix.

Even Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, which my husband would live on if I wasn’t around to cook for him, were cheaper at Marsh and these are a product that rarely has a coupon available.

Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Warehouse 96 oz. Bag Frozen
=$12.97 (or $0.14/oz.)
vs.
Marsh 40-oz. Bag Frozen
No Coupon Available
=$4.99 ($0.12/oz.)
Save 14% at Marsh

Though I expected to find many items were a better bargain using sales and coupons, I was shocked to find that prices overall were more expensive in bulk. So while I know that there are advantages to buying in bulk and matching sales with coupons does take a little more work and effort, the savings are every bit worth it for our family.

Beth Montgomery is very happily married and the mother of two beautiful little girls, with a little boy on the way who will soon be joining their family in July. She works as a part-time at her church, authors the frugal blog, IN Good ‘Cents’, she teaches seminars to help others learn how to dramatically cut their budget on everyday items.

Note from Crystal: I personally have only found a few items (such as yeast, honey, and cheese) which were consistently less expensive at a warehouse club. For the most part, my experience has been that I usually can substantially beat warehouse club prices. However, we also have a small family (so we consume less which means buying in bulk is not always as practical) and we live where grocery stores run fairly good sales.

I'd love to hear from the rest of you on this subject since we are all in different situations. Do you find shopping at warehouse clubs is worth it for your family or not?

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Comments

  1. says

    We gave up our BJs membership a few years ago. While buying in bulk could be convenient, for us and the way I purchase by shopping the sales and using coupons, it was never cheaper.

    Since our local grocery store offers discounts on gas with purchase (heck, I’ve paid as little as 5¢ a gallon for 30 gallons), even the gas was no longer a bargain for us.

    I never found anything that was a bargain for us at Sam’s Club. We do not have a Costco in our area.

  2. says

    I have found that COMPARATIVE PRICE SHOPPING is the only way to find out if buying in bulk is best for our family.

    For us:
    - COSTCO has much better prices and products than SAM’S CLUB. (My parents have tried Costco, Sam’s and BJs–all 3 miles from their home–and prefer Costco also for those reasons.)

    - Some items at Costco can’t be beat by sales and coupons at other stores. The company sends out a coupon book and if you buy things at the time with a Costco coupon, it makes for BIG savings.

    - We save on everyday items like:
    Gallon Skim Milk – $2.19
    Boneless chicken – $1.99/lb
    Lean Ground Beef – $2.49/lb
    Fruit and Veges – almost always less than $1/lb
    There are no other grocery stores nearby that offer high-quality items at those prices.

    I wrote about the subject of buying in bulk on my site, too:
    http://www.once-upon-a-coupon.com/store-tips/is-buying-in-bulk-right-for-you/

  3. says

    We share a membership with a family member. We are also a small family- me, my DH, DD (2yo), and 2 cats. I have found that cheese, lunchmeat, butter, margarine, seafood, and spices are a good deal at Sam’s Club. We also have purchased tires, eyeglasses and denim jeans for my DH there.

  4. says

    great, great topic!

    first, if you’re not a member of a warehouse, this post helps you see that you don’t have to go that route to make the most of your money. thank you for that!

    we were loyal costco patrons and LOVED it till we moved from MD to IL. the three reasons we cancelled our membership were:

    1- everything out here just seemed more expensive (though that could just be a regional thing!)
    2- costco seemed to have much more in “convenience” foods opposed to foods like flour, sugar, rice, etc. i buy more of the ladder.
    3- the time difference really was negligible for us (and i’ve got 4 kids all 4 and under) regarding going to costco v. shopping the sales. for us, we ALWAYS had to go to another store anyway (costco didn’t carry everything we needed on a weekly basis).

    since weaning ourselves off costco and finally canceling our membership in jan 2009, we’ve come to see:

    1- we can get top quality products at non-warehouse stores for cheaper quite easily. aldi is so cool! and the other day i got organic yeast packs from meijer for 12 cents each on clearance. and they don’t even expire till 2010! God always provides!
    2- not going to costco saves us from those “splurge” purchases that we really can’t afford anyway
    3- the paper/disposable products i would buy from costco are things i can get for free or really cheap without even having a Sunday paper (we don’t get the paper!).

  5. says

    I keep a very detailed price book to compare the prices on items at Costco vs. the price at Aldi. I use that list to determine when something is a good deal in bulk or not. We buy things like flour, yeast, spices, olive oil, etc at Costco because we use TONS of them (I am very sensitive to MSG, so we make almost everything completely from scratch and take to friend quite often!).

    I purchase things like meat at the grocery store because they hit rock bottom prices there! Like my chicken for $.88 last week!

  6. says

    I have the similar feelings about Sam’s/warehouse clubs that I do about Aldi’s. You need to make a list of the most common things that you buy. Then take a look at the grocery store(s) nearby and write down the prices of the items, and then go to Aldi’s and write down the prices of the items and compare.

    Do the same with Sam’s, but you also need to consider a) whether you will be buying big ticket items at Sam’s b) whether you will be buying lots of items that wouldn’t be available at a grocery store and c) the membership cost.

    I have found that most things I can buy cheapest at Aldi’s, but there are certain items that I want to buy the name brand, and so I will buy it at the grocery store, but preferably only if I also have a coupon. And I will only renew our membership to Sam’s that year if my b) and/or c) options are true.

    Andie

  7. says

    For me it is a time saver. I use it to keep me out of stores for longer. And I have not been able to find produce of the same quality and longevity of freshness at any of my local grocery stores. Costco produce tastes better and lasts longer. I can’t tell you how many avocados I have bought from the grocery store and found them to be bad before they were ever ripe enough to eat. Not making that mistake again.

    I have not been very successful with couponing though. I don’t have enough self-discipline and my family is too picky. I am working on building it up. Until then I take a strict list to Costco and to a small grocery store called Fresh and Easy. It reduces temptation for me. I will go to other grocery stores for good meat sales but that’s it.

  8. Kristine says

    I agree that at B.J.’s Warehouse you can stack coupons and that turns out to be a good deal most of the time.
    Tomorrow I am headed there for trash bags,bananas and milk. Our trash-bags have lasted us almost a year. Bananas are very well priced there. We usually get a three pound bag for very cheap. I always make it a point to pick up milk when I am there. We also like to go there to stock up for my husband before a deployment. The bulk of items such as crystal light and Kool-aid singles really help out during deployment. The bonus to all of this is that they mail you coupons, and you can pick them up at the warehouse door.

  9. Linda says

    I for the most part totally agree. Sale prices combined with coupons are cheaper than bulk prices!

  10. says

    I think that you can get a good deal either way. I have found good deals on bulk and on the smaller purchase items as well. It just depends on the deal.

    i say that any good deals is just a Good deal no matter how you look at it.

  11. Tosh says

    I love Costco and couldn’t live without it! I shop there weekly to buy staple products. I can’t eat anything but Costco individually frozen chicken. There are numerous things are are defiantly cheaper than other stores even with coupons. My favorite thing is when Costco sends their coupons, then it’s a super deal! Personally I’d rather have a Costco than any other store if I had to choose one.

  12. says

    we do a costco run once every 3 weeks for Coffee, eggs, cheese, milk, frozen berries, frozen organic veggies and organic frozen juice. I also buy bananas, lettuce etc for the week while i am there. Just the money we save on Coffee alone pays for our membership. A huge 3lb bag of freshly roasted coffee beans is 7.99. They roast them in our warehouse and the coffee is SO yummy. We make smoothies everyday and you cant beat their price on frozen berries.

    I am going to add yeast and honey to my list this time.

  13. Melodie says

    Austin Peanut Butter crackers, milk (which rarely goes on sale or has matching coupons at our grocery stores), cheese, yeast, salt, and babyfood: the only things I find cheaper at BJ’s Warehouse Club. Keep in mind though that BJ’s is the only warehouse that also takes coupons, that my store allows Manufacturer coupons to be stacked with store coupons, and that they take as many coupons as match the number of UPC-ed items in a package. Otherwise, even some of the BJ’s bulk items wouldn’t be worth it. Larger items, like kitchen utensils, bedding, clothing, etc. can also be found for reasonable prices. If you need those things when they are not likely to go on sale till the next cycle, having a warehouse membership is very nice.

  14. says

    Wow, what a lot of great responses! I’ve enjoyed reading through them all.

    I remember when Warehouse stores first came to our area. They were very plain and didn’t offer a lot of the amenities and products they have today. At that time– at least in our area, the warehouse stores beat all other stores on price, hands down. Slowly, over time, the price gap between regular/discount grocery stores and the warehouses has narrowed a lot.

    For the items I purchase for our size family (2) I’ve found that more often than not the grocery store is cheaper. I tend to shop at 1 grocery store using the “stockpiling” method; many times coupons reduce the price even further. I stock pile enough of everything we use, so that paying full price is a rare occassion. (You can read about my most recent stockpiling trip and what all I did with the stuff here):

    http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/2009/05/save-time-money-by-pre-prepping-meat.html

    Because we are a family of 2, it is much easier for us to stockpile — if we were a family of 5 or 6, or more, it would probably be a bigger time saver to shop at a warehouse store.

    Take Care,

    Trixie

  15. Tina says

    One thing is that not all areas have double coupons (boy I sure wish we did though!). None of our grocery stores double. I think while some items are more expensive at Costco I think there are great bargains to be had. I just got a huge bunch of bananas for $1.32. We actually love to get fruit there as we go thru tons. Spices, yeast, some breads are all great deals.

  16. Emily says

    I love my Sams membership. I used to go more for things like canned tomatoes and ground beef, but really, my membership is covered by the money I save on books. I am a voracious reader and I am not a fan of libraries. Not that they are bad, but I can’t get my mind wrapped around the way they are organized. The marketing of stores works better for me. Anyhow, the warehouse clubs have amazing prices on new release books. I also have found their bread to be cheaper on an everyday, and even compared to grocery store sales, basis. Everything else that I used to buy at Sam’s, now I can find at the stores cheaper if there is a sale. But I definitely think there is a place for both in our marketplace!

  17. Denise says

    I’ll admit up front, I am a “Costco Junkie” when it comes to certain items. I purchase my daughter’s diapers there (though now they are close to $40 per package!) wipes, chicken breasts, ground turkey, honey, coffee creamer, milk (thus far Costco has it for $2.69 by me, which is CHEAP!), dog bones, frozen fruit (for smoothies), fresh fruit (we eat a lot of that here), tissues, and toothbrush head replacements.

    Recently, I would put a “rounded figure” next to the item on my list, so I’d be better prepared at the check-out. It’s been helping me stay within budget (I still need to get better.)
    I began doing this, because one time out shopping with my husband and kids, I was blown away at our total… over $250.00! WOWZERS! I went back over and over and over to see what we bought, and in the end it was all necessity no “wants”. My daughter was formula fed and I stocked up and purchased 3 big cans of Enfamil for $33- that right there was $100.00.

    I do one big Costco run every month or month and a half. I get a much better deal on meat, milk, and baby essentials than anywhere else.

  18. Denise says

    Ok, so I also forgot to add that I purchase my sponges, dishwasher tablets in bulk as well. Those last me a LONG time!

  19. Janice says

    For the most part, I agree with the author. I think that most of the items at warehouse clubs can be found cheaper using sales and coupons or by simply purchasing a store’s own generic version of the product. However, I have a price list for the stores in my area (Wal-Mart, Kroger, & Aldi) and I have compared it to my nearest Sam’s Club. There are several items that I have found to be a better deal at Sam’s Club because I rarely see sales or coupons for these items. I will routinely purchase: real bacon bits, 90% lean ground beef, sliced colby jack cheese, real maple syrup, fish oil tablets, walnuts, olive oil, printer cartridges, whole fryer chickens, vinegar, yeast, baking soda, and various spices from Sam’s Club. Our savings in meat alone justifies the $40 per year membership fee. Now, on the other hand, there are numerous items that I would never purchase from Sam’s because it wouldn’t be a cost savings for me. Some of those items would include: cereal, granola bars, cleaning products, diapers, health and beauty products, and paper products.

  20. says

    I have not had a chance to read all the comments, so I apologize if this was all ready stated, but BJ’s does accept coupons and they cunt each item in a package individually when it comes to coupons. For example: We recently picked up a 4-pack of kid’s Suave shampoo/conditioner and used 2 $1.25/2 coupons on. They also had a store coupon for $1.75 which I was able to stack. I ended up getting all 4 bottles for about $1. To my knowledge, BJ’s is the only warehouse club that does accept coupons. As others have said, it all depends on what you need and what they carry.

  21. says

    My husband would live off Tyson chicken if I didn’t cook for him too!!
    I like to tag along with friends or family who have the membership once or twice a year to check out prices and decide if I need anything. Usually I can’t bear to pay the bulk price- especially if I have a coupon for that item (that I can’t use):)
    Thanks for confirming what I already thought.

  22. says

    I’ve found that the produce at my local Sam’s is way better than at most grocery stores, especially the ones with the lowest prices (like Aldi). I’m not really saving money if I buy a pint of strawberries but half of them are rotten. Between strawberries, blueberries, avocados, red peppers, pineapples and carpet cleaner, my membership pays for itself in just a few months.

  23. Kellie says

    I agree with the comments that suggested the few items used in this post are not enough to argue buying in bulk is not cheaper. Certainly some items are much cheaper with a sale and coupon at a grocery store. The items I purchase at Sam’s either do not have coupons available, or if they do, Sam’s still beats the sale/coupon price. I also agree with earlier comments that I do not have access to 10 coupons for the same item, so buying 10 boxes of Puffs with coupons is not possible for me. I have a list of items that I know I get for less at Sam’s, and make monthly or bi-monthly trips to purchase. If we lived right around the corner, I would buy all my gas and milk there!

  24. says

    Fruit and veggies – I usually shop the grocery sales, but oranges, apples, bananas, mini carrots, lettuce, avacado, and cucumbers are consistently cheaper at Sam’s Club. (though the berries, grapes, and peaches aren’t – go figure)
    A grocery sale may occasionally beat Sam’s fruit and veggies, but the warehouse always has it for that price – so the best bet is to do your research and know that less than $1/pound is good for apples, less than $.50 is good for bananas, etc.

  25. Laura says

    I truly consider myself extremely lucky, We live on a military base, where we have our commissary, which we always get everything much much cheaper than any other locol grocery store. We also have our own gas station, at a much cheaper price. I love the commissary. If you live on a base, don’t be scared to shop there, I was at first, but they sell exactly the same things that they do at any grocery store, brands are the same, everything. They are big on coupons, they even have an entire table with lots of coupon books. (Laura -Camp Pendleton, California)

  26. Angelia says

    I just wanted to add that Costco is my absolute favorite store. Since moving from Idaho to Florida I no longer have access to Costco – and Sam’s Club is just not the same:( I really miss the Kirkland brand – tuna, dog food, cat food, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, detergent, raisin bran, olive oil, trail mix – I could go on and on. Costco has excellent quality produce as well as baking and dairy staples, great gas prices and coupons and rebate offers, hard to beat book prices, nice “gift” selections, and a clean and relatively quiet shopping environment (no music). Also – with the executive membership we always got our membership back plus more (2% of all purchases back I believe). I do have 3 hungry boys to feed in addition to my husband so that is a consideration as well. Oh – and we miss the “food court” cheap lunch out too:) I guess I just kind of felt Costco was very dependable and their return policy is just about unbeatable.

    We do not pay for a newspaper and I do not shop store to store – I only alternate between our commissary and the warehouse store weekly. I think it all boils down to what is available in your area, how much food your family actually eats as well as the quality you are looking for (and can afford of course), and the amount of time you have to spend – I get very sidetracked and bogged down in the whole coupon thing. I do much better overall limiting myself to one store a week and concentrating on the basics and our “tried and true” favorites from those places. However – if a great deal or coupon presents itself I definitely don’t turn it down if it fits in with my normal shopping pattern. Sorry for the ramble!

    Side note here – I also thoroughly enjoy going through a checkout line with no magazines staring back at me and my little/young men.

  27. Kathryn Bircher says

    We are religious bulk buyers at Sam’s club. Since I work full time, and we haven’t any great grocery stores in our area that run awesome deals like the ones I hear about here, and we don’t have access to cheap coupons (newspaper etc) Sam’s saves us tons of money. It is also much closer to our house, and we save the membership fee (at least) in gas every year. I also save a lot of planing time and driving time just assuming I’ll go to just these places. We also cook from scratch a lot so coupons don’t always help us out. I think if we had access to better coupons, and I didn’t work so much it would be better not to do this, but I like that I know I will either go to Sam’s or Super Walmart and get great deals for the most part. Aldi just opened up close to us, so we are experimenting there too, but trying to to go 3 stores is difficult!

  28. Laurie says

    I would agree with most posts buying in bulk, but we are a small family of 3 and have 5 different grocery stores within miles of eacthother. I shop the specials weekly and find that I do well with this. I do like Sam’s club for veggies, fruits,yogurt,milk and clothes are much cheaper. I like others do not have time to clip coupons and most local sales are what I would pay for most items suit us.

  29. says

    I have a Costco membership primarily for the gas savings – we have a SUV and we typically save around 20 cents/gallon. At BJs we get a big pack of Silk Soy Milk and we buy diapers there. BJs usually has a coupon for our fav diapers and the savings are outstanding! I agree with some of the other posts – produce savings at Costco are great as well.

  30. says

    I would have preferred to see store brand-store brand analysis instead of Name Brand-Store Brand. Sure the Target brand diapers will be cheaper than the Pampers. Sam’s Club and Costco both have their own store-brand diapers. I would have preferred a comparison between the Kirkland’s/Member’s Mark brands instead of the Pampers.

    There are a few things that I would prefer to buy at warehouse clubs. Dog Beds are usually about 1/2 the price of other Big Box Pet Stores. I got two German Shepherd size beds for $25 a piece. They are the nice, sturdy kind with egg crate foam inside. WELL worth our membership fee. They have held up for over a year now!

    Also, when we moved, we found a shower head for our house at a lower price than our Local Chain Home Improvement Store. They usually have good prices on mattresses, some furniture, and even outdoor supplies. We got our Patio/Deck furniture last year from a Sam’s. It was much less expensive than other retailers, yet it was better quality than many other sets we’d seen.

    My point is, look outside the food aisle. Check out the HBA aisle (for the stuff you can’t get from Wags and CVS), and take advantage of pharmacy/optical deals. I’ve found good deals on clothes for me and my daughter (especially sports team merchandise). Tires may seem like a big draw, but I haven’t found a deal for my tires yet.

    You just have to learn to compare prices.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

  31. Patti says

    This is something that, unfortunately, a person needs to “do their own homework” and investigate prices for themselves in their area and based on what items they buy. I think it is impossible (and a little misleading) to make a blanket statement such as “prices overall were more expensive in bulk” because in my case the exact opposite is true. I cannot even begin to add up how much money I personally have saved by shopping at Costco vs. grocery stores in my area. I have done my research and I know how much items cost at Costco. I have been gathering a huge coupon collection and have used some, but for the most part, where I live, I have found that it is still cheaper at Costco even if I had used a coupon at a grocery store. I do, however, use coupons for items I can’t get at Costco- or for the occasion that the coupon will actually make an item cheaper at a grocery store in that instance. But, that does not happen very often. A smart shopper just has to be careful, bring a calculator, and do their homework beforehand. :)

  32. Julie says

    I realize that this was comparing name brands, but I often buy the Costco brand (Kirkland), which I have found to be a much better quality than other store brands in diapers, wipes, trash bags, detergent, dog food, etc. It is definitely cheaper than the name brands, even with a coupon. Plus, I like not having to constantly run around looking for sales on diapers and wipes, then only buying one pack since I only have one coupon.
    I maybe shop at Costco once a month (mainly b/c we don’t have a deep freeze, so I can’t buy a lot of meat and perishables in bulk), but I do feel they have some great deals on many items and it is worth the membership. Plus, even though we recycle, I like buying the larger package over several smaller ones because it is less packaging waste.

  33. says

    I tend to agree, I think that you can get better deals using coupons and sales at non-bulk stores. However, I still go to Cosco for a few items that I can’t get coupons for like almonds. They also have some good frozen stuff you can’t get anywhere else.

    But I am amused by how many people think they are getting a big savings by shopping at these types of places. If it is easier, fine, but most people would be surprised that they aren’t saving as much as they think.

  34. says

    We are a family of 8. We got rid of our Costco membership several years ago, when we found out that Cash & Carry opened their doors to non-restaurant patrons. C & C does not require a paid membership (or any membership), has the same deals (or better) as Costco, between that, our normal bulk bins at our regular grocery store, Grocery Outlet & Trader Joes, we could get all the deals, specialty items, etc for the same price, or less, w/o the membership fee, crowds & time. The thing that held us back was the gas discount, but our regular store put out a credit card with a $0.15/gallon discount .

    That said, the best deals at warehouse type places are on perishables & seasonal items. Cheeses, milk, meats, etc, were the best priced items there. I know that the Pacific Foods chicken broth was on my list (watch C & C & Fred Meyer for good prices), as were nuts like walnuts & pecans (barring a great sale on bulk nuts, Trader Joes has the best prices on these, dried fruit, too), olive oil (Trader Joes & C & C) & a few other things.

    See if you have a Cash & Carry ( http://www.smartfoodservice.com/locations.aspx ) (they are called Smart & Final – http://www.smartandfinal.com/locations.aspx – in some places) in your area. You will be able to find the same (better) deals on kosher hot dogs, beans, rice, kosher salt, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc. We buy tortillas, flours in bulk (for a tiny fraction of the price, even than the larger bags at the grocery store), onions for $0.10 a pound (in a 50 lb sack, we get one twice a year when they go on a deep sale), lemons & limes, bananas at the lowest price around, syrups for coffees & sodas & much more.

    We pick up canned goods, organics, cheeses, sour cream, ice creams, vitamins & medicines like pain relievers & antihistamines, toiletries (expensive, organic ones for the price of store brands), cleaning supplies like Magic Erasers for $0.50 each, wine (between $2-6 a bottle for nice wines) & other things at the Grocery Outlet ( http://www.groceryoutlets.com/storefinder.aspx ). If you have one in your area, use it!

    I do check unit prices, even on bulk items. Go for the lowest unit price. If your grocery store has bulk bins, check the prices there. We get our steel cut oats for breakfast there, our rolled oats for making granola and cookies there, some flours that we don’t use often enough to buy in 25-50 lb sacks, spices & other things that are priced at magnitudes lower than the packaged items. I buy sea salt with no additives for $0.29 a pound in bulk & put it in a glass container & into our shakers at home.

    Trader Joes ( http://www.traderjoes.com/locations.asp ) is actually quite cost effective if you buy ingredients rather than snacks & meals. Their chocolate chips are amazing & less expensive than the waxy store brands. I buy sheep’s milk feta in brine for less than the cheap brands of cow milk feta in the grocery store. Take a day to walk the aisles & note prices, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Even those chewy granola bars are a better deal there, though I don’t buy them as we can make them for less. The packaged foods are not as good a deal, but still a better deal than packaged food at the grocery store. They will take coupons for the brands they carry (I get Organic Valley heavy cream there w/coupons, as they have the lowest price already). Their packaged foods are also made with real ingredients & few, if any, preservatives & other junk. So, not only is it lower in cost, but it is better for you. Wine, beer & hard ciders are also a great deal here.

    Whew! That was a long comment. To answer the question directly, if you shop judiciously, warehouse stores can be a great value. If you can find a warehouse type store in your area that does not have a membership fee, it is an even better deal. We even have an organic food outlet in our area, so search for that, too.

    Remember to sign up for the newsletters, both by mail & e-mail (there are different deals – a local store where we shop sends postcards for freebies & BOGOs every 2 weeks in the mail, not in their e-mails) & check for coupons accepted.

  35. says

    I believe generally you can get a better deal shopping with coupons at your local grocery store. I don’t have a membership to a warehouse type store, but I have gone with my sister in law. I found that after looking at the prices on many items I could do better shopping with coupons instead. I did however find that the price on tortilla chips and salsa was great and the size of the package would mean it would last longer than it normally does at my house.

    There is also the time consideration. Finding, organizing, and plannning trips to the grocery store to get the best deals using coupons can be very time consuming and not everyone has time to devote to it or wants to.

  36. says

    This article had been fresh in my mind as my husband and I are contemplating a Costco membership, so when a friend asked if I wanted to tag along to check out the prices there yesterday I was excited to go. While I completely agree that couponing along with store sales make a ton more sense on a great deal of items there, I have to say that I was very impressed with the prices and quality of the vegetables (big boxes of spring lettuce and spinach for $3.99 in particular!), cheese, and the family sized pickle jars and hummus (my family goes through them like crazy!) to name a few at Costco. After my visit there, and seeing the decent gas discount I decided it would be a great idea to join for those items alone. I will continue using coupons for the majority of my other pantry needs though! Just my opinion! Thanks:-)